Happy Voice-Over Appreciation Month!

I thought I’d take a moment to showcase five voices that are probably responsible for the paths I’ve taken in life, be it radio or animation. Not that I knew it when I heard them, mind you. Let’s call them ‘early influences.’

Ernie Anderson
His voice was synonymous with ABC television for as long as I can remember. He was the personality of the network, which is the whole point of imaging. He had the voice of God and he made programs like the Love Boat sound like the most exciting show ever! You didn’t hop on board the “Love Boat.” You took a ride on the “Loooooooove Boat!” He almost made it sound dirty, which he claims was his intention in this terrific interview segment.


Wolfman Jack
That deep, raspy voice first came to my attention in a film favorite of mine, George Lucas’s “American Graffiti.” Although he wasn’t onscreen for long, his voice on the radio was as much a character in the movie as any of the young stars. There was a mystery about him. He sounded like a cartoon! What did he look like? Why does he call himself the Wolfman? Was he as hairy as a Werewolf? There’s a lesson in branding for you. I still enjoy his DJ bits on the (killer) soundtrack to this classic coming of age comedy. Jump to the :50 mark in the scene below to watch Wolfman Jack’s cameo with Richard Dreyfus.


Mel Blanc
No surprise here. The Man of a Thousand Voices! He’s on everybody’s list. Bugs Bunny, Barney Rubble, Speed Buggy. I’m sure Mel Blanc was the first animation voice I ever heard, and I’m positive he was the first voice-actor I ever saw in front of the camera. Seeing him onscreen in that famous American Express commercial didn’t break the illusion for me. I knew they were hand-drawn cartoons. But to think all of those voices came out of one man? I just thought he had the coolest job in the world! Apparently many folks felt that way as his requests for autographs jumped significantly as a result of the ad.


James Earl Jones
Another great mystery here. Two or three, in fact. And another George Lucas movie… Star Wars. David Prowse was tall enough to fill out the Darth Vader costume, but a British tenor was not what Lucas had in mind for the voice of filmdom’s most popular villain. He chose the deep, bass tones of James Earl Jones. And when the helmet came off in Return of the Jedi? It was neither of these guys. But “Luke, I am your father” is one of the most (mis)quoted lines in film history (he actually says ‘No. I am your father.’) And then there’s his great speech in “Field of Dreams.” And of course, the ID for CNN.


Rich Little
Rich Little was always on TV when I was growing up. Seemingly able to do an impression of anyone, he even had the targets of his satire laughing (as you’ll see in the clip below). Rich Little had me doing impressions of Rich Little doing impressions of celebrities. And we can still take a lesson from his fearlessness when performing… He’s not afraid to look silly. He commits to the role. And he really becomes the character in posture, mannerisms and facial expressions.


This is by no means a definitive list of my voice-over heroes, nor are they ranked by importance. But when I stop and think about it, they really are my earliest voice-over influences. They provided the catch-phrases of my youth.

Who are your early influences?

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Comment by Dan Roberts on September 16, 2010 at 1:25pm
Good stuff, Peter! Thanks for sharing! I loved Ernie's interview comment about making every line (or word) unique, special, stand out... Otherwise they could find anybody to do it. There's a lesson in that. And look at Ernie's longevity! The only thing that put him out of work was mortality.
Comment by Peter K. O'Connell audio'connell on September 16, 2010 at 10:39am
Dan,

You nailed it right off the top for me with Ernie Anderson. I was working in radio on air and as a production manager when the Z-100 imaging he voiced was just starting Amazing. I remember around that same time being in Florida about an hour away from Miami and I took a radio out onto the balcony of the place we were staying so I could pick up Y-100 and Ernie's ID's: "W-H-Y-I, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and the Palm Beaches, WWWHHHYYYYY, ONE HUUUNDRED!".

Couldn't sound like the man but I tried to learn from him anyway. Talked to him once on the phone, nice guy.

Best always,
- Peter

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